IPCC’s species extinction hype “fundamentally flawed”

Before you read this, I’ll remind WUWT readers of this essay:

Where Are The Corpses? Posted on January 4, 2010 by Willis Eschenbach

Which is an excellent primer for understanding the species extinction issue. Willis pointed out that there are a lot of holes in the data collection methods, and that has proven itself this week when this furry little guy (below) announced himself to a couple of volunteer naturalists at a nature reserve in Colombia two weeks ago and was identified as the thought to be extinct red-crested tree rat. It hasn’t been seen in 113 years. Oops.

"extinct" Red-crested tree rat - photo by Lizzie Noble

From the GWPF: IPCC Wrong Again: Species Loss Far Less Severe Than Feared

IPCC report based on “fundamentally flawed” methods that exaggerate the threat of extinction – The pace at which humans are driving animal and plant species toward extinction through habitat destruction is at least twice as slow as previously thought, according to a study released Wednesday.

Earth’s biodiversity continues to dwindle due to deforestation, climate change, over-exploitation and chemical runoff into rivers and oceans, said the study, published in Nature.

“The evidence is in — humans really are causing extreme extinction rates,” said co-author Stephen Hubbell, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California at Los Angeles.

But key measures of species loss in the 2005 UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report are based on “fundamentally flawed” methods that exaggerate the threat of extinction, the researchers said.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “Red List” of endangered species — likewise a benchmark for policy makers — is now also subject to review, they said.

“Based on a mathematical proof and empirical data, we show that previous estimates should be divided roughly by 2.5,” Hubbell told journalists by phone.

“This is welcome news in that we have bought a little time for saving species. But it is unwelcome news because we have to redo a whole lot of research that was done incorrectly.”

Up to now, scientists have asserted that species are currently dying out at 100 to 1,000 times the so-called “background rate,” the average pace of extinctions over the history of life on Earth.

UN reports have predicted these rates will accelerate tenfold in the coming centuries.

The new study challenges these estimates. “The method has got to be revised. It is not right,” said Hubbell.

How did science get it wrong for so long?

Because it is difficult to directly measure extinction rates, scientists used an indirect approach called a “species-area relationship.”

This method starts with the number of species found in a given area and then estimates how that number grows as the area expands.

To figure out how many species will remain when the amount of land decreases due to habitat loss, researchers simply reversed the calculations.

But the study, co-authored by Fangliang He of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, shows that the area required to remove the entire population is always larger — usually much larger — than the area needed to make contact with a species for the first time.

“You can’t just turn it around to calculate how many species should be left when the area is reduced,” said Hubbell.

That, however, is precisely what scientists have done for nearly three decades, giving rise to a glaring discrepancy between what models predicted and what was observed on the ground or in the sea.

Dire forecasts in the early 1980s said that as many as half of species on Earth would disappear by 2000. “Obviously that didn’t happen,” Hubbell said.

But rather than question the methods, scientists developed a concept called “extinction debt” to explain the gap.

Species in decline, according to this logic, are doomed to disappear even if it takes decades or longer for the last individuals to die out.

But extinction debt, it turns out, almost certainly does not exist.

“It is kind of shocking” that no one spotted the error earlier, said Hubbell. “What this shows is that many scientists can be led away from the right answer by thinking about the problem in the wrong way.”

Human encroachment is the main driver of species extinction. Only 20 percent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.

Some three-quarters of all species are thought to live in rain forests, which are disappearing at the rate of about half-a-percent per year.

AFP, 18 May 2011

Species–area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss

Nature473,368–371(19 May 2011)

Extinction from habitat loss is the signature conservation problem of the twenty-first century1. Despite its importance, estimating extinction rates is still highly uncertain because no proven direct methods or reliable data exist for verifying extinctions. The most widely used indirect method is to estimate extinction rates by reversing the species–area accumulation curve, extrapolating backwards to smaller areas to calculate expected species loss. Estimates of extinction rates based on this method are almost always much higher than those actually observed2345. This discrepancy gave rise to the concept of an ‘extinction debt’, referring to species ‘committed to extinction’ owing to habitat loss and reduced population size but not yet extinct during a non-equilibrium period67. Here we show that the extinction debt as currently defined is largely a sampling artefact due to an unrecognized difference between the underlying sampling problems when constructing a species–area relationship (SAR) and when extrapolating species extinction from habitat loss. The key mathematical result is that the area required to remove the last individual of a species (extinction) is larger, almost always much larger, than the sample area needed to encounter the first individual of a species, irrespective of species distribution and spatial scale. We illustrate these results with data from a global network of large, mapped forest plots and ranges of passerine bird species in the continental USA; and we show that overestimation can be greater than 160%. Although we conclude that extinctions caused by habitat loss require greater loss of habitat than previously thought, our results must not lead to complacency about extinction due to habitat loss, which is a real and growing threat.

Full paper (subscription required)

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74 thoughts on “IPCC’s species extinction hype “fundamentally flawed”

  1. Has anyone discussed the potential error in assigning a value to modern extinction records based on DNA, photographs, detailed notes, preserved samples, etc. vice a value for historic extinctions which can only be identified in the fossil records – how would one know the difference between a red crested tree rat and another tree rat based on their skeletons and the random, infrequent fossil record.

    Seems to be a bigger problem then tree rings.

    Why is a “global extinction rate” a significant term, when all of the forcing functions are localized?

  2. “Human encroachment is the main driver of species extinction. Only 20 percent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.”

    40% given over to agriculture?? Can’t even get that fact correct, not even close. pg

  3. The method used all this time to estimate extinction rates is so obviously flawed, I have to believe they used it mainly to further their agenda.

    Maybe all this AGW nonsense has made me a cynic.

  4. How can this be!?

    Scientist: Global warming could melt ice caps, eliminate half of Earth’s species

    USA Today
    1/11/2007

    By Tom Gardner, Associated Press Writer
    MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — The effects of global warming are being felt around the world and unless international efforts are launched within the next 10 years, species will disappear and the Earth will be a vastly less habitable planet by the end of the century, according to NASA scientist James E. Hansen.

    And Hansen said all this back when he was being “muzzled” by the Bush Administration…HE MUST BE RIGHT! THE TRUTH MUST BE KNOWN!!

    /sarc

  5. I suspect that root of the UN’s problem is that it once again has been taking WWF and Greenpeace “studies” as fact and passing them on without doing the least bit of fact checking.

    For 40 plus years the UNEP has been misleading western governments about all aspect of its environmental program. Its core goals are not, and never were, in any way related to the environment as we have been finding out through its subsidiary, the IPCC.

  6. “red-crested tree rat” – good I can add this to my list,

    http://z4.invisionfree.com/Popular_Technology/index.php?showtopic=2050&view=findpost&p=4894439

    Not Extinct – Angola Giant Sable: Rare African antelope ‘rediscovered’ (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Bavarian Short-eared Mouse: Back from the dead, not seen for 40 years (The Guardian, UK)
    Not Extinct – Beck’s Petrel: Flies Back From Presumed Extinction (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Cape Lion: ‘Extinct’ lions surface in Siberia (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Capricorn Beetle: ‘Extinct’ beetle comes out of the woodwork (The Daily Telegraph)
    Not Extinct – Canterbury Knobbed Weevils: ‘Extinct’ bug found alive and well in high-country reserve (The New Zealand Herald)
    Not Extinct – Cantor Giant Soft-Shell Turtle: Rare giant turtle found in Mekong (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Cobble Elimia, Nodulose Coosa and Cahaba Pebble Snails: Thought extinct found in Alabama (Associated Press)
    Not Extinct – Cozumel Thrasher: ‘Extinct’ Bird Rediscovered In Mexico (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Cuban Solenodon: Mammal thought extinct found in Cuba (The Age, Australia)
    Not Extinct – Dwarf Cloud Rat: Rediscovered After 112 Years (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Giant Palouse Earthworm: Idaho Researcher Finds Rare Earthworm (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Gilbert’s Potoroo: Thought extinct for over 100 years, found in Western Australia (Associated Press)
    Not Extinct – Glass Sponges: Once thought extinct, now found nearby (UWeek)
    Not Extinct – Greater Bamboo Lemur: Held Extinct Found on Madagascar (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – Greater Mouse-eared Bat: ‘Extinct’ – bounces back (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Harlequin Frog (Carrikeri): Rediscovered In Remote Region Of Colombia (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Harlequin Frog (Painted Frog): Believed Extinct Found Alive (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Harlequin Frog (San Lorenzo): Rediscovery Of Endangered Colombian Frogs (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Harlequin Frog (Santa Marta): Rediscovery Of Endangered Colombian Frogs (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Indian Owl: Considered Extinct, Is Captured on Film by Americans (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – Ivory-billed Woodpecker: Not extinct (CNN)
    Not Extinct – Jaguar Spotted In Central Mexico For First Time In 100 Years (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Javan Elephant: Presumed Extinct, May Have Been Found Again – In Borneo (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Javan Rhinoceros: Thought Extinct, a Few Are Seen in Vietnam (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – Kouprey Oxen: ‘Extinct’ oxen are seen (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – La Palma Giant Lizard: Scientists find ‘extinct’ giant lizards (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Leatherback Turtles: Not extinct in Malaysia (The Hindu)
    Not Extinct – Laotian Rock Rat: Retired professor tracks down rodent thought to be extinct (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
    Not Extinct – Long-beaked Echidna: New hope over ‘extinct’ echidna (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Michigan Cougars: Not Extinct, Animal Droppings Indicate (Live Science)
    Not Extinct – Mount Diablo Buckwheat Wildflower: Thought Extinct Rediscovered in California (NPR)
    Not Extinct – Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog: Nearly Extinct, Population Discovered (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – New York Moose: Once Extinct in the state, return to New York (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – Opal Allotoca: ‘Extinct’ Fish Found (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – Palos Verdes Blue Butterfly: Flutters Back to Life (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – Pygmy Hippos: Caught on film (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Pygmy Tarsiers: Long-lost ‘Furby-like’ Primate Discovered In Indonesia (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Rat-squirrel: Not extinct after all (USA Today)
    Not Extinct – Red Colobus Monkey: Thought Extinct Still Exists (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Robust Redhorse Sucker Fish: Thought Extinct Found Again in Georgia (The Georgia Aquarium)
    Not Extinct – Ryukyu Spiny Rat: Not Extinct (Japan Probe)
    Not Extinct – Siamese Crocodile: Once Thought Extinct, Is Photographed In Thailand (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Sheepnose Mussel: Thought extinct surfaces in Mississippi (Delta Farm Press)
    Not Extinct – Short-necked Oil Beetle: Re-emerges after 60 years (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Storm Petrel: Flies back from extinction after 150 years (The Daily Telegraph, UK)
    Not Extinct – Sumatran Ground Cuckoo: Lost Cuckoo Breaks Its Silence (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Swinhoe’s Soft-Shell Turtle: Discovered Living In Wild In Northern Vietnam (Science Daily)
    Not Extinct – Tibet Red Deer: Hunch Leads to Discovery of Herd Thought to Be Extinct (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – U.S. Jaguar: Gone for Decades, Jaguars Steal Back to the Southwest (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – Warbler: Fiji’s ‘extinct’ bird flies anew (BBC)
    Not Extinct – Woolly Flying Squirrel: Long Thought Extinct, Shows Up in Pakistan (The New York Times)
    Not Extinct – Yangtze (Baiji) River Dolphin: Previously Thought Extinct Spotted In The Yangtze River (Science Daily)

  7. For some reason the word “Yamal” is bouncing around inside my head. What have all these folks been drinking, I mean thinking?

  8. …nearly 40 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.

    Can some knowledgeable person tell me if this passes the sniff test?

  9. On the supposedly huge species losses in the Brazilian rainforests see chapter 6 by Brown & Brown in Whitmore & Sayer (1992) eds. ‘Tropical Deforestation And Species Extinction’. They conclude that these estimates are wildly exaggerated for much of these rainforests.

  10. “IPCC report based on “fundamentally flawed” methods”. That sounds familiar.

    “How did science get it wrong for so long?” That sounds familiar.

    “the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report are based on “fundamentally flawed” methods that exaggerate the ….” That sounds familiar.

    So is the science settled?

    Are things not worse than we thought?

    It takes a long time and a lot of money to undo the damage done by failed science and failed scientists.

  11. “It is kind of shocking” that no one spotted the error earlier, said Hubbell. “What this shows is that many scientists can be led away from the right answer by thinking about the problem in the wrong way.”

    Fits the IPCC Team like a glove.

    Its nice to read something from a real scientist who does not have CAGW blinkers on.

  12. In Australia, often cited as Ground Zero for mammalian extinctions, no mammal species has gone extinct in the last 50 years. In that time at least eleven species that were previously regarded as extinct have been re-discovered. In truth, many Australian mammals are small, secretive, sparsely populated, nocturnal animals that spend a lot of time underground. They are very hard to observe and count.

    Extinction may not be forever after all.

  13. Poptech

    From my admitedly hazy memories when I was studying vertebrate palaeontology (in the late 1960s), there is the (?) Parma wallaby, from the Sydney area in NSW, thought extinct but found again on an island off New Zealand where a population was established by Europen settlers, the pygmy possum (Barramys parvus), thought extinct (again described originally from sub fossil bones), but found in a ski lodge at Mt Hotham, Victoria.

    I also think the common wombat (Vombatus ursinus) was first described from sub-fossil bones from either Jenolan Caves or Wellington Caves in NSW, then people realised that all those things running around that the European called badgers were actually the same thing.

    And Leadbeaters possum, thought to be extinct then latter found out to be common in regrowth areas in Victoria after bushfires. People thought nothing much lived in the burnt out areas but this seems to be the preferred habitat for these possums.

    Ciao

    John Gorter

    Milan

  14. Poptech says:
    May 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Great list. Also great for racking up numbers. That’s another trick used by the mass extinction industry. For example:

    “Not Extinct – U.S. Jaguar: Gone for Decades, Jaguars Steal Back to the Southwest”

    Not a species. Just a political boundary. But they usually try to designate such things as ‘geographic populations’ and then ADD them to the ‘extinct’ or other at risk lists. They also invent ‘subspecies.’ Higher numbers make scarier sounding ‘endangered’ lists, and even then 90+% of them are not actually endangered.

    In this particular case, there is virtually no chance in the world that a jaguar got back there naturally. But once ‘rediscovered’ an industry and a land management issue is created.

    And you need to delete this one: “Not Extinct – Ivory-billed Woodpecker” if you are basing it on that recent ‘sighting’ in the US as that turned out to be nothing more than a curious and convenient false alarm. Was an absurd story from day one.

  15. Oxbridge Prat says: (May 20, 2011 at 12:19 am)
    The extinctions are in the pipeline?

    Or is the pipeline preventing extinctions, Oxbridge?

    Did the alaskan pipeline have an effect on the caribou population?

    Yes, the Alaska Pipeline effected the migrating caribou. The caribou now make it a point to hang around the pipeline while giving birth and also in the winter due to the pipeline providing a warmth that they didn’t have before. The Trans Alaska Pipeline had a very positive effect on the caribou.

  16. Bjorn Lomborg explained how ‘extinction rate’ numbers were manufactured in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist. As I recall he used an example pumped by the WWF. Took a while to get to this point. I assume the delay was due to its inconvenience to those promoting this ‘Conservation Biology’ branch of the Global Eco-Doomsday crisis. Since they are working on a ‘Biodiversity’ version of the IPCC it is rather astonishing to see it published now – although its ‘corrected’ numbers are still overstating things. But the more people look, the more curiosities they will see.

  17. Let us not forget that despite it’s hi-jacking by the CO2 demonizers, destruction of our remaining rainforests and reduction in biodiversity is a subject all genuine environmentalists are concerned about.
    It may be wishful thinking on my part but if both of these things could actually be halted by way of some not-too-drastic modification in our lifestyles then it would be something worth doing.
    Sadly…the figure of half a percent a year sounds quite scary enough to me. I do not think all those species are going to be doing too well if their habitat has pretty much disappeared in a couple of hundred years from now. This really has to be stopped or drastically slowed down further.

  18. ‘Some three-quarters of all species are thought to live in rain forests, which are disappearing at the rate of about half-a-percent per year.’

    I’ve always been a big Jungle fan (5 years living in Bristol in the UK, Drive By was my favorite) and I have been to the rain forests in Queensland, which kinda get dark at night and are very intresting when your hanging out with a lot of ozzy’s that have tropo but i digress, I wonder how such ecological sites would be doing now if the money poured down the AGW drain had gone to conservation and such of our eco-system? oh well at least the money has been spent well.

  19. Kept this article from last 29 Sept:

    “Back from the dead: One third of ‘extinct’ animals turn up again

    The revelations come as the world’s leading conservationists prepare for a major United Nations summit on biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan, next month. ..

    Dr Diana Fisher, of the University of Queensland, Australia, compiled a list of all mammals declared extinct since the 16th century or which were flagged up as missing in scientific papers.

    ‘We identified 187 mammal species that have been missing since 1500,’ she wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    ‘In the complete data-set, 67 species that were once missing have been rediscovered. More than a third of mammal species that have been classified as extinct or possibly extinct, or flagged as missing, have been rediscovered.’

    Mammals that suffered from loss of habitat were the most likely to have been declared extinct and then rediscovered, she said…

    The mistakes cannot be blamed on primitive technology or old fashioned scientific methods.

    ‘Mammals missing in the 20th century were nearly three times as likely to be rediscovered as those that disappeared in the 19th century,’ Dr Fisher added.”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1315964/One-extinct-animals-turn-again.html

  20. The amount of money stolen by the bankrobbers was heavily exaggerated and fundamentally flawed.
    The estimated stolen $ 10 mln turned out to be only $ 6 mln.
    Blame the guy who didn’t count very carefully! Blame him! He’s an alarmist! Blame him!

    Yours,
    BankRobert

  21. “But extinction debt, it turns out, almost certainly does not exist.”

    Whoever wrote that either did not read, did not understand the paper, or chose to mislead.

    He and Hubbell are clear that the definition of extinction debt as the difference between actual extinction and extinction predicted by the SAR is incorrect. However they also write “Note that these results say nothing about whether an extinction debt exists”.

    Anybody who doubts that extinction debt is a valid concept, that species, destined for extinction can persist for one, or more generations, before finally becoming extinct, need only consider Lonesome George.

  22. ‘The pace…is at least twice as slow as previously thought’

    Ouch!

    What’s wrong with

    ‘The pace…is less than half as fast as previously thought’

    Why can’t academics write straightforward English? Is Obfuscation & Prolixity 101 a compulsory class in Nerd School?

  23. EVERYTHING about the IPCC appears toi be fundamentally flawed. But still governments hang on their every word. Crazy.

  24. These ‘conservationists’ are always on to a winner. Say a visit to ‘darkest New Guinea’ reveals 4 new toads and 3 new rats then, with only one or two pairs of each ‘in existence’, that’s fantastic, 7 new species to add to the ‘critically endangered’ list !

  25. Oh, and allow two years to pass, fail to find the site again, and 7 more species are ‘extinct’. Simples !

  26. Well said, Poptech! You also might want to add the one about the “lost tiger population of Bhutan”, which was rediscovered last year living in the mountains where zooological experts had said it was impossible for them to live at such an altitude. Then modern technology discovers them on camera doing the exact opposite. Isn’t mother nature wonderful? I also recall news 30 year + ago of fishermen catching a fish off the west coast of Africa which was thought to have been extinct for millions of years (no idea if it was ever true). One wonders just how at risk threatened species really are. A bit like the “Amercian” Polar Bear population I expect. I am no expert by any means, but could there just be the remotest of possibilities that these creatures have learned to adapt to their environment to survive?………………..naaah, that’s just stupid thinking, what a klutz!

  27. It is a case of-‘there were two in the garden yesterday and now they’re gone. Must be extinct.’

    Counting methods leave a lot to be desired especially for those, like the tiger, which like a solitary existence. A recent BBC nature program reported the count of tigers in Bhutan and expected to find 100 or so but actually found an estimated 3000 of these beautiful creatures.

    All the scare stories do not include any about new species being discovered every day as our search methods improve and the ability to reach the more inaccessible improves.

  28. You can always tell a closet totalitarian in green clothing, because they will find a story like this and point out the bad news, rather than concentrating on the fact that the things they have been fretting over aren’t as bad at all, and on current trends, likely to not be a problem in the end.

    They will see something like this and say ‘it was wrong this time, and the time before that, and the time before that. But we have to do something ™ now! Before it is too late ™’

    I’m a bit dismayed none of those people have shown up here. I fully expected a couple of comments like that. But then most closet totalitarians seem to be aware the game is increasingly up and don’t do drive by comments anymore. Perhaps ‘denier alerts’ has folded or something.

  29. “What this shows is that many scientists can be led away from the right answer by thinking about the problem in the wrong way.”
    Indeed. Scientists, particularly those in the environmental/climate fields perhaps need to re-learn how think about things in the correct, aka scientific way. But, is it even possible? I lay the blame directly on how they are being taught. They have been lead astray by post-normal thinking, wherein emotion and advocacy trump scientific method.

  30. What’s really weird is that greenpeezers and WWFers only have to take a closer look at a specie for it to become extinct. Talk about evil eyes. 0_O

  31. Whenever someone tells me that x number of species go extinct every year, I always reply “Name two.”

  32. The good folks over at The Resilient Earth examined this so-called bio-diversity scare a couple of months ago:

    http://theresilientearth.com/?q=content/price-biodiversity

    “But you can’t quantify species extinction if you can’t identify the species in the first place. Back in 2000, famed Harvard University ant biologist Edward O. Wilson estimated that it would cost $5 billion to identify every species on Earth, not just animals. Wilson admitted at the time that, even among the small minority of all species diagnosed and named, fewer than 1% have been subject to the kind of careful biological studies needed to undergird ecology and conservation biology.”

  33. Observations from Indianapolis:
    Animals I have seen in my area of the northern part of Indianapolis and southern part of Carmel, IN (not “Car mel” as in California but “carml” as in Indiana) over the past five years of living here.
    (1) Deer living in and around housing areas.
    (2) Hawks (red tailed and chicken)
    (3) Owl (pair of barred owls, I am looking for their babies but have not seen them yet)
    (4) Fox (mother and three pups seen and photographed in my neighbor’s back yard). I heard recently that over 50 foxes were removed from Camel, IN.
    That does not include the fawna seen in my yard (my wife can give you all the names I an not that blessed).
    God has created a tremendous adaptability in life that we humans discredit.

    I guess the point is to keep your eyes and ears open to what is living around us.

  34. My favorite has been the mantra that the rainforests have been razed by man and will never recover. This article (which I saw originally in the NY Times) talks about how abandoned farmland is returning to rainforest at a rate estimated to be 50 new acres of rainforest for every 1 destroyed. And there is no sign that these lands cannot return to their original biological productivity levels.

    http://gliving.com/media-watch-abandoned-farm-land-reverting-to-jungle-raises-new-debates/

  35. Re Shevva

    I wonder how such ecological sites would be doing now if the money poured down the AGW drain had gone to conservation and such of our eco-system?

    Or if the wrong kind of conservation has increased losses of biodiversity. Some of the woodsmen here have commented about forest management or mismanagement may have led to an increase in fire tolerant species at the expense of less tolerant ones.

  36. I missed the “h” in ‘his final estimate’, at 5:45. Forgot to mention they ‘re-introduced’ the lynx in western Colorado about 2002. I guess the one that was looking into my living room in 1995 through the glass door must have died.

  37. GWPF quoted in the original post said: “Human encroachment is the main driver of species extinction. Only 20 percent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.” (I think they are paraphrasing Hubbell.)

    Someone asked about the 40% figure. Is Science Daily this is presented differently:
    “Humans are already using 40 percent of all the “plant biomass” produced by photosynthesis on the planet, a disturbing statistic because most life on Earth depends on plants, Hubbell noted. “

  38. Given how little we know about historical species (how many fossils have been found???), it is amazing that some want to believe they know so much about the current trends as to label them “extraordinary”. All we do know is that stuff happens and species go out of existence all the time. A fossilized bone of a tree frog is not much different than a swamp speckled frog, yet today they are different species with one endangered and the other not. Who says the 2 fossils from the past were not the same species or different?

    It seems that some areas of science have taken up the incompetent rant of the journalist profession – do not report the results – make them up!

  39. In terms of how species are likely to become extinct, loss of habitat always seemed liked a perfectly reasonable argument. That any species extinction can be attributable to AGW always seemed rather unlikely.

    How is Earths biodiversity dwindling due to climate change? This isn’t rhetorical, I would actually like someone to answer?

    DavidS

  40. So . . . . rather than just counting the total number of known species and then identifying which no longer exist, estimating extinction date based on last known sighting and extrapolating from that . . .

    They chose to look at the number of species in a given area of land, determine the rate of increase in the number of species as that area increases, reverse the process and estimate extinction based on habitat destruction.

    And NOBODY saw the flaw in that logic? ? ?

    [REPLY] Well, yes. I saw the flaw in the logic. w.

    Uhm, excuse me while I puke. Genuine Science no longer exists outside of physics and chemistry. Bio-, Climate, Enviro, Social . . . are no longer real science. This post normal crap has to end. Once people no longer believe in real science (and we are getting there because of this kind of B.S.) it’s going to be tough to win them back. They’ll refuse to fund real science because of all the fake science.

  41. “Only 20 percent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.”

    I call BS!

    There is no way 40% of the planet’s land is involved in agriculture. Any fool with Google earth can quickly ascertain that fact.

    90% of the earth’s land is unsuitable for agriculture. I’ve seen a good bit of this world up close and personal; parts that have tremendous agricultural potential, and parts that have zero. Let me tell you; the parts that have zero outweigh the other by at least 4 or 5 to one. Even the parts that are highly productive you don’t get more than about 40 or 50 percent of the land actually tilled and planted. Mind you quite a bit of the remainder is used up for roads, farm buildings, fence rows, etc. and is therefore no longer in it’s natural state, but to the claim that 40% of the earth’s land is “now given over to agriculture” is just blatant stupidity.

  42. Yes, and up next I suppose they’ll say that the missing extinction events are trapped in the oceans.

    After all, it’s a pretty direct parallel, they use models based on surface temps while the majority of the Earth’s surface, not to mention thermal content, is the oceans. I’ve no doubt that the majority of living organisms are aquatic as well, and our knowledge of these is orders of magnitude poorer than our knowledge of land-based organisms, which as previously mentioned is not all that great.

  43. Natural selection, survival of the fittest are well accepted concepts. That means that humans will necessarily have an impact on other species. However, whenever we do things that diminish one species we are improving conditions for the species that are food for the diminished species. In addition, we now create situations for new species to evolve.

    One can argue whether the “new balance” of species is good or bad, but to claim that we are changing the laws of nature is pure nonsense.

    This should be obvious to anyone trained in natural systems. So, why do we constantly see the species extinction BS? Just a another version of CAGW? Yup, another scare to keep the lemmings in line and the research fund flowing.

  44. DavidS says:
    May 20, 2011 at 6:50 am
    In terms of how species are likely to become extinct, loss of habitat always seemed liked a perfectly reasonable argument.

    Except when you pause to consider how many squirrels, rabbits, snakes, frogs, lizards, racooons, and opossums you find in your back yard in the MIDDLE of a city. It seems that many species – perhaps most – are a lot more adaptable than some faux scientists.

  45. One reasonable view of global biological capacity would be that it is energy dependent. The more energy, the more biological capacity our planet provides. If this is true then AGW would be a good thing for *life* itself (up to a certain maximum the Earth has never experienced).

    In addition, we could think of renewable energy sources like wind/solar/wave/etc. to be sapping energy from the system which would have a negative impact on biological capacity. Fossil fuels, OTOH, take sequestered energy and add it to the total. A net gain for overall biological capacity.

  46. P.G. Sharrow says:
    May 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm
    “Human encroachment is the main driver of species extinction. Only 20 percent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.”

    40% given over to agriculture?? Can’t even get that fact correct, not even close. pg

    I am sure you are right. looks to me like the 40% of the non-icecovered land given up to agriculture is mistatement of actual data.

    I always thought it was 40% of arable land ( ie. land fit and available for agriculture ).
    so, figured i will go check. this is what i found.

    in the following site, you can see a number close to 40% as being used for agriculture. the first thing that will jump at you is Saudi arabia… According to Saudi Govt, less than 2% of the land is used for agriculture. but this website says 86.8% of agri usage. I guess they mean 86.8% of the land that they can cultivate… which is about 2%.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/agr_agr_lan_of_lan_are-agriculture-agricultural-land-of-area

  47. I believe that the Earth’s biodiversity declined with the extinction of the dinosaurs too.
    What that caused by “global warming” and by mankind?

  48. Re; nandheeswaran jothi @
    May 20, 2011 at 9:12 am

    ” . . . . that will jump at you is Saudi arabia… According to Saudi Govt, less than 2% of the land is used for agriculture. but this website says 86.8% of agri usage. I guess they mean 86.8% of the land that they can cultivate… which is about 2%.”

    Funny, I went through almost the exact same exercise, but with the U.S. instead. Result; 2,426,936,000 total acres of ground in the 50 United States. Used to produce crops last year; 318,170,000. Per the National Agricultural Statistics Service, part of the Department of Agriculture. That’s roughly 13% of total land area. If you figure 25% fallow (probably a very high estimate) you get to about 17% in crop production. From what I can see; any ground that is grazed (or even licensed for grazing) is automatically counted as agricultural. In some states, like Wyoming, that is the majority of the agricultural use land. Most of it is largely ungrazed.

    When you consider that the difference between pastureland and native prairie is largely whether there’s any type of livestock either standing on it, or allowed to stand on it, I fail to see how that ground is unsuitable in any way for native species.

    I think the scientists are making the assumption that any ground ‘given over to agriculture’ is plowed under and farmed. It’s just not so.

    Anyway; that’s in the U.S.. The most productive agricultural nation on earth, siting on the most productive continent on earth, using the most advanced technology and resources available.

    So . . . in conclusion; to state that 40% of the worlds land not covered in ice is used for agricultural production is outside of reality. Just not possible. Human beings do not occupy 40% of the earth’s land in any meaningful way. It takes a scientist living in a big city surrounded by buildings, streets and people to not understand that.

  49. LOL!

    I announced to my boss that they have been calculating the extinction rate wrong (they are REALLY in to biodiversity here).

    She asked “Is it worse than we thought?”

    I told her it was better.

    She replied “Then that can’t possibly be right.”

  50. The paper is a sham: it does not report extinction rates or the numbers of species that are threatened. Despite its posturing, it deals with a different issue. The paper is riddled with false statements. For instance:

    The paper states: “Estimates of extinction rates based on (the species-area) method are almost always much higher than those actually observed.” It is unequivocally false. One reference used to support this (Pimm and Askins) uses a species-area relationship to predict 4.5 bird extinctions following deforestation in Eastern North America and then notices that four species went extinct and one is threatened.

    There are dozens of other studies of many taxa around the world that find equally compelling agreements between predicted and observed extinctions. A small selection of them follows.

    So what does the paper model — and why does it poorly address the issue of extinctions? Imagine destruction that wipes out 95% of the habitat in an area metaphorically “overnight”. How many species have disappeared “the following morning”? The paper tells you. It is not many, just those wholly restricted to the 95% (and absent from the 5% where they would survive). The important question is …
    How many of additional species living lonely lives in their isolated patches (the 5%) would become extinct eventually because their population sizes are too small to be viable? A different species-area curve applies — the one for islands, which are isolated. It is a much larger number of extinctions, of course, and the one used in the studies mentioned above that find such compelling agreement between predicted against observed extinctions.
    By all means, feel free to share this.
    A response will be submitted to Nature shortly.
    Stuart

    Pimm, S. L. & Askins, R. A. Forest losses predict bird extinctions in eastern North America. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 92, 9343–9347 (1995).

    Brooks, T. M. et al. Habitat loss and extinction in the hotspots of biodiversity. Conserv. Biol. 16, 909–923 (2002).

    Grelle, C. E. de V., Fonseca, G. A. B., Fonseca, M. T. & Costa, L. P. The question of scale in threat analysis: a case study with Brazilian mammals. Animal Conserv. 2, 149–152 (1999).

    Brooks, T. & Balmford, A. Atlantic forest extinctions. Nature 380, 115 (1996).

    Cowlishaw, G. Predicting the pattern of decline of African primate diversity: an extinction debt from historical deforestation. Conserv. Biol. 13, 1183–1193 (1999).

    Brook, B. W., Sodhi, N. S. & Ng, P. K. L. Catastrophic extinctions follow deforestation in Singapore. Nature 424, 420–423 (2001)

    Brooks, T. M., S. L. Pimm, V. Kapos and C. Ravilious 1999. Threat from deforestation to montane and lowland birds and mammals in insular Southeast Asia. J. Anim. Ecol. 68: 1061-1078

    Brooks, T. M., Pimm, S. L., & Oyugi, J. O. Time lag between deforestation
    and bird extinction in tropical forest fragments. Conserv. Biol. 13, 1140-1150
    (1999).

    A full discussion of species area curves appears in

    Rosenzweig, M.L. Species diversity in space and time. (Cambridge Univ.
    Press, 1995)

  51. Every WUWT reader will find a very interesting discussion of the hypothised “current sixth mass extinction” in Patrick Moore’s book “Confessions of a Greenpeace dropout – the making of a sensible environmentalist”.

    Really worth reading on many, many issues such as chemicals, forestry, energy, population by a man who knows Greenpeace better than many outsiders ! After being really one of those who “made” Greenpeace”, he has the experience of coping with their extremist, black and white, claims.

  52. This is just more epidemiological junk-science, and Hubbell’s insistence that it is based on empirical evidence is BS. The worse part is that this crap gets published.

  53. PhilJourdan says…..

    Some species do adapt well to urbanisation, foxes in the UK for example are too successful. I would guess that other species wouldnt be, gorillas for example.

  54. As I’ve mentioned before, one way to protect a lot of species is to provide propane grills and fuel in places like Central America, so the locals can stop cutting down the rain forests for cooking fuel. Also a certain amount of modern fertilizers and machinery could help improve the yields of lands that are already clear and reduce the temptation to clear rain forests lands for crops. These sorts of ideas don’t tend to appeal to the more romantic sort of environmental activist, of course.

  55. Poptech says:
    May 20, 2011 at 7:14 am
    Al Gored,

    It looks like that it was spotted again,

    Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Sighted and Recorded

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110428132236.htm

    ————

    I don’t buy it. Not just the flimsy evidence. Too many birders looking for too long, with too small of an area for those birds to hide in, for them to ‘hide’ for so long.

    There would need to be a breeding population to survive that long. Where are the juvenile dispersers looking for new territories? They would have ventured out of any secret core hiding spot with population growth – and there would have been population growth under this scenario. But none reported for all those years? The whole story is biologically and ecologically nonsensical. Always has been.

    And look where it was published: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

    This fellow may be suffering from a bad case of wishful thinking. And if anyone is trying to create some new park or wilderness area they would help him wish this.

    There are lots of very ‘odd’ events like this. Like the miraculous reappearance of the ‘American Jaguar.’ But at least they had real jaguars to work with.

  56. stuart pimm says:
    May 20, 2011 at 10:48 am

    “The paper is a sham…

    One reference used to support this (Pimm and Askins) uses a species-area relationship to predict 4.5 bird extinctions following deforestation in Eastern North America and then notices that four species went extinct and one is threatened.”

    Yes. Well. That’s four extinct species out of the grand total of SEVEN that have gone extinct in the recorded history of North America. And one, the ‘Heath Hen’ was arguably a subspecies.

    Or has it skyrocketed to EIGHT? Not sure if they have finally decided that the Eskimo Curlew is gone. It probably is. Its population was decimated back when there was a real extinction crisis in North America.

    See Willis’s great article – at the top – for a nice summary of that.

  57. First, my thanks to all those who have commented.

    I first began work on what eventually became my blog post on extinctions in 2004 … so when the the authors of the article ask:

    How did science get it wrong for so long?

    I have to say, “Well, not all scientists got it wrong. I didn’t.”

    Next, Mike says:
    May 20, 2011 at 6:38 am

    GWPF quoted in the original post said: “Human encroachment is the main driver of species extinction. Only 20 percent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.” (I think they are paraphrasing Hubbell.)

    Someone asked about the 40% figure. Is Science Daily this is presented differently:
    “Humans are already using 40 percent of all the “plant biomass” produced by photosynthesis on the planet, a disturbing statistic because most life on Earth depends on plants, Hubbell noted. “

    “Using 40 percent of all the ‘plant biomass'”??? Get real, that number doesn’t pass the laugh test, much less the smell test. It’s a bogus claim originally put forward by Paul Ehrlich in his risible “HUMAN APPROPRIATION OF THE PRODUCTS OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS” by Peter Vitousek, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich and Pamela Matson (1986)

    In it, they claim that human “appropriation” of the green growing stuff
    of the planet, depending on exactly what “appropriation” means at a given moment,
    ranges from their low estimate of 3% to their high estimate of 40%.

    Now to me, that reflects a poorly defined term … but they get around
    that by giving the Goldilocks estimate, three separate numbers.

    At the 3% level, “appropriation” means what you would expect it
    to mean — what we actually eat and wear and use to build our houses
    with, the stuff we actually use.

    At the 40% level, however, “appropriation” means what we eat and
    wear and build with, plus:

    • everything that grows in any human owned pastures and
    fields, regardless of whether a human ever touches it, plus

    • the annual difference in production between what we grow
    on a piece of land versus their theoretical calculation of what could
    have grown on the same land, plus

    • the annual production that might have happened where we
    put our roads and cities (figured, of course, at the highest possible
    production rates), plus

    • the apples that fall off your tree and are eaten by the
    birds, or rot in the soil, plus

    • (I kid you not) calculated annual production lost through
    “desertification”, whatever they choose for that to mean on a given
    day.

    So when you see a deer grazing in your back yard, he’s not really
    eating that grass, you are, because it’s happening in your yard, and by
    the Ehrlich’s calculation that makes it a human “appropriation” of the
    products of photosynthesis.

    w.

  58. Bob Kutz says:
    May 20, 2011 at 7:31 am

    “Only 20 percent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.”

    I call BS!

    And a good call it is. The best source on this is the UN FAO Global Agro-Ecological Zone Study (GAEZ). Here’s their numbers:

    <code.Land Surface Coverage
    Forest, 21.2%
    Desert and Barren, 20.9%
    Woodland, 14.5%
    Grassland, 13.6%
    Mosaics, 8.5%
    Cropland, 8.3%
    Ice, Cold Desert, 5.9%
    Lakes, rivers, 3.3%
    Irrigated, 3%
    Wetland, 0.7%
    Urban, 0.2%

    w.

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